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Aldermen Share Concerns About Funding for Facilities Projects

The School Committee provided updates on short- and long-term facilities projects in the Newton Public Schools.

During a joint meeting Thursday night between the Board of Aldermen and School Committee, the topic of funding sources for facilities work was a common theme throughout the evening. 

With only  at  and three elementary schools, some aldermen shared concerns last night that the projects could come in over-budget without a source for the extra costs.

To view a copy of last night's facilities presentation, click the .pdf to the right.

As of last night,  come in at around $4.8 million, which includes $500,000 for a fully-equipped science classroom and renovated West entryway. 

With another $1 million needed , the project tops that $5 million allocation.

"[The extra cost] is not in the millions. It's a limited number of a few hundred thousand dollars," said Deputy Superintendent/Chief Administrative Officer Sandy Guryan. "We should be in problem-solving mode to figure out how to make this work."

Guryan emphasized, though, that the F.A. Day plans are only at a "50 percent schematic design" and that the true cost of the project will come in once a bid proposal is put together and the city receives offers from contractors. 

Ideally, the School Department would like to get the F.A. Day project down to $4 million, Guryan said. 

In addition, Guryan said the science equipment and West entryway renovations would likely be listed as options on the bid, rather than requirements. That way, the School Department can look at what it can afford once the bids come in for the project.

"I don't think that right now we can do more than say we're within several hundred thousand dollars of where we want to be," Guryan said. "I think we're on enough of the same track that we should move forward...and keep the project going and be prepared to make choices, whether it is about funding or the final things that get included in the project."

Mayor Setti Warren noted at the meeting that the costs for required sprinkler systems for both the modular and F.A Day projects  (CIP). 

Alderman Lenny Gentile, who chairs the board's Finance Committee, added his concerns about the possible costs tied to abatement for hazardous materials, as the city . 

"That is the thing that is of great concern to me," Gentile said. 

According HMFH Senior Associate Vassilios Valaes, the cost estimate currently sets aside $100,000 for hazardous material removal, a number that an expert on the project said should cover the necessary abatement work.

HMFH is the firm currently working on the F.A. Day project designs. 

Gentile also urged the School Department and Public Buildings Department to get the plans to the city's Design Review Committee as soon as possible, as that group can often help come up with both time- and cost-saving measures.

As of last night, the timeline for the F.A. Day project puts students into new classrooms in February 2013.

Both Alderman Ruthanne Fuller and Alderman Amy Sangiolo also shared concerns about funding sources for any extra costs tied to the facilities project, with Sangiolo "highly urging" the School Department not to tap further into the city's CIP. 

Over the course of the next few weeks, both Guryan and Mayor Warren told the group that the city and School Department will be working hard on finding ways to get the cost of the F.A. Day project down. In the meantime, communication will be frequent between the different groups and committees to keep everyone informed.

Ward 1 School Committee member Geoff Epstein suggested looking into potential STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) money from local companies or the state to help fund the science classroom equipment needed in the F.A. Day project. 

Both Lt. Governor Tim Murray and Governor Deval Patrick  during the annual STEM conference at the Newton Marriott. 

"I think it's something we should really explore," Epstein said. 

Alderman Marcia Johnson, who also encouraged looking into public-private partnerships, urged the creation of a liaison committee for the F.A. Day neighborhood, similar to the liaison committee created during the construction of the new Newton North High School

School Committee Chair Claire Sokoloff noted that any members of the public wishing to comment on the facilities projects are encouraged to attend Monday night's School Committee meeting, where they can share their views during the public comment period.

The School Committee will meet Monday at 7:30 p.m. in the . 

Updates on modular classrooms

Prior to the F.A. Day project discussion, Public Buildings Commissioner Stephanie Gilman gave a brief update on the installation of modular classrooms at three elementary schools. 

According to Gilman's update: 

  • Preliminary site visits are complete
  • Foundation permits have been issued
  • Modulars are currently being constructed at Triumph's facilities (Triumph is the contractor awarded the contract for building/installing the modulars)
  • Triumph will deliver the modulars in November starting with , then  and 
  • Specifications for siding, flooring and wall panels have been sent to the architect for review
  • Site preparation as well as fencing, grading and National Grid service work has started at Burr

Gilman noted that the project is still on schedule and students are expected to move into the new modular units in January 2012, following December vacation. 

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